Racing the creative class: Diversity, racialized discourses of work, and colorblind redevelopment

Authors: Yui Hashimoto*, Dartmouth College
Topics: Economic Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography
Keywords: Economic development; race; creative class; colorblindness; work
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In this paper, I examine a colorblind redevelopment strategy informed by Richard Florida’s creative class thesis to illustrate how
it relies upon and reproduces historical socio-spatial patterns of racial inequality. Specifically, I explore the case of Milwaukee,
Wisconsin, a rust belt city attempting to revitalize after decades of white flight, deindustrialization, and intra-metropolitan segregation. Through an analysis of Milwaukee’s redevelopment plans, two years of participant observation, and interviews with government officials, local business elite, and nonprofit professionals, I demonstrate how colorblind redevelopment constitutes a racial project even as it nominally recognizes racial difference and embraces diversity. My analysis points to the centrality of race in colorblind redevelopment strategies like the creative class. Through Jodi Melamed’s theorizing of neoliberal multiculturalism, I contribute to the urban and feminist geographic scholarship on redevelopment by examining contemporary articulations of race that cross-cut phenotype with economic value and depoliticize structural racism into diversity and culture.

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